The International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed that it is considering opening an office in Russia near the Ukrainian border in a bid to step up humanitarian efforts in the besieged area – a move that has raised concerns among some Ukrainians .
Dominik Stillhart, director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross, said the charity desperately needed to increase its humanitarian aid in eastern Ukraine.
The organization is investigating whether it could supply Ukraine via Russia.
“There are ongoing discussions [of] where we can set up a logistics base. But right now we don’t have an office,” he told CBC News.
With more than $82.5 million raised in Canada to support the charity’s work in Ukraine, some are concerned about the optics and implications of the move. The Ukrainian government said on Sunday strongly opposes the prospect of the Red Cross setting up an office in Russia.
Ukrainians living in Manitoba also voiced their objections to the move. “We were frankly appalled,” said Myroslava Pidhirnyj, a member of the board of directors of the Manitoba provincial congress of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
“Are they negotiating with Hitler? Would they be setting up a center in Germany when people were actually being brought to their deaths? A similar thing is currently happening in Ukraine.
‘Overwhelming bulk’ of aid money will be spent in Ukraine, Red Cross says
No money has yet been spent in Russia, and the “overwhelming bulk” of the money will continue to be spent in Ukraine, Stillhart said.
Currently, three-quarters of funds raised by Canadians go directly to Ukraine, while the rest is spent in neighboring countries to help refugees, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, a- he declared.
Stillhart said it was important for the Red Cross to engage with Russia.
“We must be seen on the ground by the warring parties as neutral,” he said.
“We need to have a minimum consensus that we can operate on those front lines. And that’s what will help us and hopefully continue to help us reach even more people than we do today. “
Russia could exploit situation, expert says
Paul Larson, an expert on humanitarian aid supply chains and a professor at the University of Manitoba, applauded the Red Cross for trying to stick to its principles of neutrality and independence.
But he said doing so in this case is a “very delicate matter” and said the optics of working in Russia could be seen as the Red Cross endorsing the lies the Kremlin is espousing for its invasion.
“I can personally say that if it even seemed like an appearance of them endorsing this lie, they probably got my last donation for quite some time,” he said.
Larson also warns that there is a “great possibility” that supplies and resources sent to Russia for Ukraine will be stolen by the Russian military.
“There are many examples of aid going to war-torn countries to help civilians, but it’s basically been stolen by military powers or armed types,” he said.
“Given the recent history of what Russia is doing, I have no doubt that if they had the chance, they would exploit the situation.”